Monthly Archives: September 2017

A Little Spice Is Nice

About a year ago I wrote a blog about a Creamy Corn Chowder recipe that was to die for! BUT, it took most of an afternoon to make. So with expediency in mind, here’s one—Spicy Corn Chowder—that’s just about as tasty, yet takes a fraction of the time from start to finish. Thanks to David Bonom of Fine Cooking for the instructions.

Bacon makes this creamy dish—with just the right amount of heat from a bit of chipotle chili powder—the ultimate early autumn comfort food. Don’t substitute frozen corn here; the flavor of this quick chowder depends on freshly cut kernels. Yes, fresh-picked corn is near it’s end here in the northeast, so take advantage of the last crop of the season.

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Sweet corn is one of summer’s simplest, purest pleasures. A fresh-picked ear, grilled to caramelized perfection and lightly buttered, offers incredible, complex sweetness, an intoxicating texture and plenty of nutrition benefits to boot.

But many people have convinced themselves that sweet corn is bad (oh those dreaded carbs). That’s a shame. It’s easy to take a few real nuggets of fact and use them to come to a distorted conclusion about this super-delicious summer veggie. An ear of corn has about the same number of calories as an apple and less than one-fourth the sugar.

Some reviewers added a jalapeño pepper, paprika, cayenne, and chili powders instead of the chipotle powder, which would certainly give a zing, but I think the chipotle chile powder really makes this soup stand apart from others, without making it too spicy. If you prefer a milder kick, use a 1/4 teaspoon of the spice instead of a 1/2 teaspoon.

Although corn lovers often profess to have favorite varieties, variety is far less important than freshness—any corn can be ruined if it’s old. Nor is color a key to quality. Yellow, white, bi-color, it doesn’t really matter. Avoid corn with dry, pale husks and silks that are desiccated where they enter the cob. If pricked, kernels should squirt whitish juice. As for choosing the best-tasting corn, don’t buy a cob that’s more than 24 hours out of the field, that’s why it’s best to purchase at a farm stand. But hurry, the season is nearly done!

 

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon (6 slices), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 5 cups fresh corn kernels (from 10 medium cobs)
  • 1/2 tsp. pure chipotle chile powder
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and coarsely grated
  • Kosher salt
  • Grated Monterey Jack, for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Cut the kernels off the corn cobbs with a large, sharp knife on a rimmed baking sheet to prevent the kernels from scattering around your kitchen.
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  2. Cook the bacon in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off and discard all but 2 Tbs. of the bacon fat.
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  3. Return the Dutch oven to medium-high heat and add the onion, half of the scallions, the celery, bell pepper, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
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  4. Add the corn and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chipotle powder and cook for 30 seconds.
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  5. Add the half-and-half and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the grated potato, lower the heat to medium, and cook, covered, until the potato is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
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  6. Season to taste with salt and transfer to 4 large soup bowls. Garnish with the reserved bacon and scallions, and the cheese, if using, and serve.

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When Unexpected Company Comes, Roast a Chicken!

With only two days notice that we would have overnight guests on a recent Tuesday, I quickly switched our weekly menus so that the Roast Chicken with Carrots, Baby Potatoes, Leeks and Bacon dish would be our feast for dinner. Never mind that we never made it before, that’s just the way we roll. (Luckily we’ve had very few disasters.)

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Nephew Desi and his recent bride Stacey, along with their way-too-cute 11-month-old son Aspen, were making their way back to Florida after two weeks in the Northeast for their wedding, and our house was conveniently located in the path toward the auto-train in Lorton, VA. (They stayed up with us pretty late that night and had to depart before the crack of dawn to drive for hours in rush hour traffic, ugh.)

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While the number of steps might seem a bit daunting, it is actually an easy recipe where everything goes in one pot, cooks for an hour or so in the oven, and voila, dinner! Little Aspen had just started walking so Stacey was keeping him occupied while he played peek-a-boo under our island, and Desi helped me with some of the prep.

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The end result produced a perfectly moist chicken, although we could have probably left it in the oven a bit longer so the skin became even crispier. But it was already 8:00 and dark out, and since we were dining al fresco, we figured we shouldn’t delay dinner any longer than necessary.

In hindsight I realized I missed two steps. The potatoes should have been cut in half (or quarters), but I left them whole, although they were totally cooked through. And I also neglected to sprinkle the veggies with the chopped parsley, but nobody seemed to notice the omission.

Everyone loved the meal, and Aspen couldn’t get enough of the chicken! This rates a place in our treasured roasting recipes…

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Ingredients

  • 1, 3-4 whole chicken
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 10 small sprigs
  • 4 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme, plus 4 sprigs
  • 3 large leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, then sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces and rinsed; plus dark green parts from 1 leek, rinsed and reserved
  • 3 strips thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise 3/8-inch thick
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. baby multi-colored potatoes, cut in half or quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened

Directions

  1. Discard the giblets from the chicken, trim off any excess fat from the cavity and neck, and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Generously season the chicken inside and out with 1 Tbs. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.
  3. Stuff the cavity with the parsley sprigs, 3 of the bay leaves (if fresh, crush slightly), 2 sprigs of thyme, and the dark leek greens.
  4. Tuck the wings behind the neck, using the wingtips to secure any loose neck skin if With only two days notice that we would have overnight guests necessary. Tie the legs together with string. Let rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
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  5. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  6. In a 6-quart round roaster, cook the bacon in the oil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 7 minutes.
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  7. Leaving the bacon in the pan, spoon out and reserve all but 1 Tbs. fat.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium and add the leeks, garlic and remaining bay leaf and thyme sprigs, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  9. Cook stirring occasionally until the leeks are soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  10. In the same pan, arrange half of the carrots and potatoes in an even layer, seasoning very lightly with salt and pepper, then scatter the leek mixture over the top. Layer the remaining carrots and potatoes over the leeks with more slat and pepper. Pour the broth over the vegetables.
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  11. Pour 1 Tbs. of the reserved bacon fat into the cavity of the chicken. Rub the softened butter over the bird’s skin and sprinkle with the chopped thyme. Set the chicken, breast side up, on the vegetables.
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  12. Roast the chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 to 170 degrees, about 1 hour.
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  13. Transfer the chicken to a platter, remove the string, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  14. Meanwhile, discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf and keep the vegetables warm in the oven.
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  15. Sprinkle the carrots and potatoes with the chopped parsley, arrange them around the chicken and serve.
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    After the bird rested a while, Russ started carving the meat.

Recipe found in an All-Clad magazine advertisement

Another Historic Newtown Gem

Imagine a building dating back to 1836, the site of the only civil war “battle” fought in Bucks County. Now imagine that same building transformed into an upscale contemporary restaurant with the atmosphere and cuisine of a Center City fine dining establishment located right in historic Newtown, PA. Welcome to The Saloon

Sitting on a side porch is an old-fashioned carriage, a relic of the old general store from the early 1900’s. While the outside of the building has remained pretty much the same over the years—it has transitioned from a tavern to a general store, moving and storage business, a lawn equipment store, a speak easy (The Maennerchor Club), the Township House and eventually The Saloon—the inside has changed drastically with the times.

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Although our reservations this balmy Friday evening were for seating on their spacious outdoor patio (which they added about 5 years ago), the reception area is outfitted with cushioned seating and modern low-lighting sconces augmented by soft votive candles. This ambiance carries into the dining areas, where the tables are covered in linens and the walls are painted in a blend of maroon and varying lighter colors, providing a contemporary upscale atmosphere.

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As for the menu, it is extensively Italian-American complemented by an ample selection of seafood items that include fresh fish. There is also a “lighter-fare” menu and a few nightly specials. While we tend to favor BYOs, they have a full-scale bar that features the martini in about every combination possible, with the Stoli Doli (vodka  with pineapple) being the most popular.

Admittedly our waiter was a bit of an odd duck, but certainly friendly and capable enough. While waiting for our glasses of wine, we received a bread basket (nothing special) and perused the menu. For starters, from the Light-Fare menu, we decided to split the Crab-Stuffed Portabella Mushroom chock-full of jumbo lump crab meat and topped with aged provolone and a pesto drizzle. Not only was it fabulous, it was ginormous!

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Under the fish selections they offer a choice of either salmon or tilapia, so I went with the Olivia style salmon sautéed with black and green olives, zucchini and roasted red peppers in a white wine sauce. Portions were adequate and the fillet was perfectly cooked and tender.

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Russ wasn’t as quick to decide but finally settled on Chicken Scarpariello sautéed with Italian sausage, hot and sweet peppers bathing in a roasted garlic sauce. He enjoyed the mix of ingredients and the melding of flavors. Instead of a side of pasta, we both chose an accompaniment of sautéed vegetable medley.

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They have been more of a destination restaurant but with all of the recent building on Sycamore Street (i.e. The Promenade), it is much more pedestrian-friendly—however, almost 5 miles from home, it’s not necessarily walkable for us. We use to frequent this establishment often in years past, but it’s been quite some time since we’d been back. But the plan is to make sure we don’t let that happen again…

 

A Cuppa Joe and a Taste of the Arts

A Langhorne Borough mainstay, the Langhorne Coffee House sits on the corner of Bellevue and Maple in the center of town in the idyllic Bucks County, PA neighborhood. Dating back to the 1700s this area was known as Four Lanes End—a name that derives from the fact that the site was at the crossroads for travelers from Philadelphia to the Delaware River and Trenton, New Jersey.

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The quiet town of Langhorne played a small part in the history of the Revolutionary War. Beleaguered patriots fled across New Jersey in the winter of 1776 where the NJ Legislature then met in Langhorne. According to Langhorne and Vicinity in Olden Times by Samuel Eastburn “… they met in the house of Gilbert Hicks at Four Lanes End to consider the state of the country.” And this is precisely the building that now houses the aforementioned coffee house.

Although we’ve lived in Langhorne for nearly 6 1/2 years, Russ and I only ate breakfast (wildly popular) there once, and never lunch. So when good friend Paula Graham mentioned she’d like to take me out for a retirement luncheon, the coffeehouse immediately came to mind. On a late-September balmy Friday we made a quick dash over and I made the decision to sit indoors so Paula could get enjoy the full ambience of the place.

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Paula holds one of their mismatched mugs aptly inscribed with a “Friends” message.

We chose a table by the self-serve beverage station that offers a mixed bag of mugs, a selection of fresh-brewed coffee, every variety of loose leaf tea and bags, hot sauces galore, with a selection of accompanying condiments. All smiles, the waitstaff is very friendly without rushing you giving us time to catch up.

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At one point early in the conversation, Paula noticed she forgot to put her rings on before she left home. Shortly thereafter, I was ready to start snapping some pics for this blog when I realized I left my phone at home. Paula commented “that’s even worse than forgetting your rings!”

We chatted away for quite awhile before placing orders of nearly the same thing! The stuffed tomato salad appealed to both of us, mine with tuna, Paula’s with egg; each coming with a slew of pickle slices and a small bag of potato chips. While the meals are nothing super-fancy or out of the ordinary, the food is ample, well-made and freshly prepared.

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Nearly two hours had gone by when we noticed they were closing down for the day, so we headed for the door. Our waitress said goodbye but then quickly shouted “Wait, you DO have to pay!” Never having been given a tab, it didn’t occur to us that we hadn’t paid. Apparently that is more common than one would think…

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This popular little dining spot has both interior and exterior seating (when the weather allows) serving breakfast and lunch until 2:00 p.m. Local artist’s display their wares for sale on the walls and windowsills. The first Friday of every month from 6-10 p.m. is Artists on the Avenue, the coffee house’s monthly Artist Series. Each month a new fine art exhibition is executed and the artist(s) featured that particular month attends the opening reception for a meet and greet. I’m hoping to finally check out one of those very soon… perhaps even be the featured artist one day?

 

Power to the Pumpkin Seed

The approach of Fall was nearing with visions of pumpkins dancing in our heads (oops, wrong month for that expression) and one of our favorite Autumnal snacks is pumpkin seeds. So the minute Russ and I laid our eyes on this Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seed Clusters recipe in a lifestyle magazine, we knew we had to make them. But it should come with a warning – you will NOT be able to stop eating these! The intoxicating combination of salty, honey sweetness, and pumpkin pie spices is seriously addictive.

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Fortunately these delicious little clusters are a relatively healthy treat because pumpkin seeds are one of the best plant sources of zinc, a mineral that is important for optimum immune function. Yes, there is refined sugar and honey in them, so you must be somewhat cognizant of how many you are consuming—but it will be difficult.

Also known as “pepita”—a Mexican Spanish term, these shell-free seeds are flat and oval in shape, and have a greenish color. Unlike the hard white seeds from a carving pumpkin, most pumpkin seeds bought from the supermarket do not have a shell, so use the raw green ones for the recipe. Not hard enough or tough enough to be called a brittle, these morsels have more of a cereal cluster consistency with a tad more crunch.

There are roughly 151 calories in an ounce, mainly from good fat and protein; and they are a great source of dietary fiber, woohoo! Another plus—animal studies have shown that pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed powder and pumpkin juice can reduce blood sugar. This is especially important for people with diabetes, who may struggle to control their blood sugar levels.

And if like me you have trouble sleeping, you may want to eat some pumpkin seeds before bed. They’re a natural source of tryptophan, an amino acid that can help promote sleep—although it’s hard to imagine how these exciting little clusters could encourage the Zzzzs…

I made a double batch first time out of the gate and was glad I did, we loved them! Apparently so did Russ’s coworkers. I sent a small bunch to work with him, and within hours of his departure he emailed me asking when I planned to post the blog because his colleagues wanted the recipe. My guess is, you’ll love them too!

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably fresh
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together the pumpkin seeds, honey, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt until everything is thoroughly combined.
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  3. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through the cooking time for even browning.
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  4. Let the pumpkin seeds cool completely before breaking into clusters. Package them in a sealed jar or bag for gifting. Can be kept for up to 1 week (if they last that long!) in a sealed container.
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Chicken Thighs with an Asian Twist

This Asian Chicken and Rice Noodle Salad is quick, easy and delicious. Perfect for warm evenings when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen or mop your brow. Although this salad may look like it’ll feed a small army, the rice noodles and shredded vegetables are very light, and the sweet, sour, and slightly spicy vinaigrette makes you want to keep eating.

I inadvertently tossed out the fennel fronds so I minced up some fresh chives to use as a garnish instead; plus topped with a smattering of chopped peanuts to add a nice crunch factor. And the grocery store was not carrying Napa cabbage went we went food shopping, therefore we bought a Savoy cabbage that worked well as a replacement. If you want to amp up the spiciness, just add more hot red peppers.

We enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day—just make sure to add the peanuts, if using, just before you eat the salad because they do not refrigerate well and loose their crunch.

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 fresh long red chiles, stemmed and minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
  • 1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed (fronds reserved), cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Canola oil for the grill
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz. thin rice noodles (vermicelli)
  • 4 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (from 1/2 large head)
  • 1 Tbs. Asian sesame oil; more to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts (our addition, optional)

Directions

  • Prepare a medium-high (400°F) gas or charcoal grill fire.
  • In a large bowl, stir the vinegar, sugar, chiles, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt until the sugar dissolves. Reserve 2 Tbs. dressing in a small bowl. Add the carrots and fennel to the large bowl and toss; set aside.
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  • Pat the chicken dry and generously season with salt and pepper. Oil the grill grate.
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  • Grill the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, and let rest for a couple of minutes.
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  • Meanwhile, prepare the noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse briefly under cold running water, and transfer to the large bowl. Add the cabbage and sesame oil, toss well, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and more sesame oil.
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  • Transfer the salad to a serving platter or plates. Slice the chicken thinly and arrange on top. Drizzle with the reserved dressing, garnish with fennel fronds, and serve.

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Recipe by Genevieve Ko

Big, Fat, Greek Salad

Souvlaki, a traditional Greek dish of skewered and grilled meat, is often served in pita as a sandwich. Here, in the Pork Souvlaki Salad with Black Pepper Tzatziki recipe, it’s reimagined as a fresh main course salad. The meat usually used in Greece is pork, although chicken, beef, and lamb may also be used.

If you are not familiar with tzatziki, it is a sauce served with grilled meats or as a dip and is made of yogurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, sometimes with vinegar or lemon juice, and possibly some herbs like dill, mint, parsley, thyme etc. It is always served cold. Make sure you do not skip the step of squeezing out the excess liquid once you grate the cucumber.

If you’re so inclined, serve toasted pita alongside to round out the meal. Russ and I loved this simple, quick, healthy dinner salad. Other than adjusting some of the proportions for just the two of us, I pretty much made the recipe as it was published in Fine Cooking.

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Ingredients

  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more for the pan
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 20 rounds (about 1/2 inch thick)
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, grated, excess liquid squeezed out
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice; more as needed
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 8 cups mixed baby greens
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta

Directions

  • Prepare a grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat (about 400°F).
  • In a medium bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the oil, 2tablespoon of the vinegar, a third of the garlic, and the oregano. Add the pork, toss to coat, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
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  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of the oil, the remaining garlic, the yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
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  • Thread 5 pieces of pork horizontally onto each of four 12-inch metal skewers or soaked wooden skewers, leaving about 1/2 inch of space between pieces. Season the pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
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  • Grill, turning the skewers occasionally, until the pork is well marked and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total.
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  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the greens, tomatoes, and feta with the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, then with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and the remaining 2 tablespoon oil.
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  • Arrange the salad on plates or a serving platter. Lay the pork skewers on top, spoon some of the tzatziki over the pork, and serve with the remaining tzatziki on the side.

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By David Bonom from Fine Cooking

Ginger Salmon with Sesame Cucumbers

It’s a lot easier to make healthy choices when the meals are both good for you and crazy good tasting. Here’s one from Food Swings a new cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld (wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld). This simple recipe Ginger Salmon wth Sesame Cucumbers is kind to your body, crowd-pleasingly delicious and even gluten-free.

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A word of caution if you have a gas oven broiler. They never work as well as they do in an electric oven, as was the case with ours. Our gas broiler was over-charring the salmon edges and the thick center was still too raw. To compensate, I lowered the temp to 425 degrees and let the salmon cook another 10 minutes (it was thicker than called for).

Content to usually take a back seat in salads, the humble cucumber takes a starring role in this side dish. You may think a cucumber is just a cucumber, right? There are actually close to 100 varieties grown in the world. Two of the most common are the English cucumber, and the regular slicer cucumber we use most often in our dishes.

English cukes are a variety that is generally sweeter than the regular, common cucumber. They are longer, sometimes a bit thinner, usually pricier and have very tiny seeds, although they’re often labeled “seedless.” To protect their thinner, unwaxed skin they are sold wrapped in plastic.

This accompanying cucumber salad was subtle in flavor and made a nice counterpoint to the bold flavors of the fish, which was fabulous! For the salad, I substituted a Thai red chile in place of the jalapeño (because I didn’t have one) which I thought would’ve kicked it up a notch, but didn’t seem to add any heat.

Ingredients for salmon:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. skinless salmon fillet, about 1 1/4″ thick
  • 1/3 c soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger, about a 1″ piece

Ingredients for cucumbers:

  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2-to-1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Directions

  1. To make the salmon: Place whole fillet in a large ziploc plastic bag. In a small bowl combine soy sauce, honey, orange juice and ginger. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the mixture and set aside. Pour the remaining mixture over the salmon.
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  2. Squeeze out the and seal the bag. Refrigerate for 15-60 minutes to marinate (the longer the better, I say), flipping the bag over occasionally so booth sides marinate evenly.
  3. Heat broiler with oven rack about 4″ from the top. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil.
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  4. Place salmon on prepared pan and discard marinade.
  5. Broil for about 5 minutes, or until the top of the salmon begins to char. Pul pan out and spoon half of the reserved soy sauce mixture over salmon. Broil for 1 minute and add the remaining sauce. Broil for another 2 minutes. The top should be nice and charred but not burned.
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  6. Check for doneness by inserting the tip of a paring knife into the thickest part of the salmon. If it’s not done to your liking, broil for another couple of minutes. Divide into 3 or 4 pieces and plate.
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  7. To make the cucumber salad: In a medium bowl, combine cucumber, jalapeño, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Stir in dill and toasted sesame seeds. Serve with salmon.

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A note about the author/philanthropist Jessica Seinfeld: Food Swings is her fourth book with an all-new collection of more than 125 delectable recipes that reflects the actual human eating experience: sometimes healthy, sometimes indulgent. It offers a range of simple and satisfying recipes that speak to both sides of your food brain.

Chili Rubbed Pork Chops with Corn Salsa

As summer starts to wind down, I wanted to make good use of the seasonal harvest still around, deciding on a grilled corn salsa to spotlight the delicious tomatoes and sweet corn, all too soon to be replaced by their tasteless, winter counterparts. Sob 😦

Our two beautiful, one-and-a-half-inch thick pork rib chops swam in a quick molasses brine for one hour. Then I rubbed the chops down with a chili rub and placed them back into the fridge overnight. The next day after grilling for a few minutes on each side, they were plated with a final flourish of the corn salsa.

The combination of the juicy, spicy pork and sweet corn salsa was excellent. It brought together the freshness of summer vegetables with the taste of the grill, keeping the season alive just a little bit longer.

The ingredients list below is for four servings. Other than the brine, I cut the elements in half for just the two of us.

Ingredients (for four servings)

  • 4 pork rib chops, 1 1/2″ thick

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For the brine:

  • 1 quart of cold water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons molasses

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For the rub:

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

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For the salsa:

  • 4 ears of corn, husked
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. To make the brine, mix the salt and molasses in the cold water until completely dissolved. Wash the pork chops and place in the brine, completely submerging them. Brine the pork in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

  2. While the pork is in the brine, mix all the ingredients for the rub together in a small bowl.

  3. Remove the pork chops from the brine and wash in cold water. Pat the chops dry with paper towels. Liberally season each chop all over with the rub, wrap in foil, and place back in the refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight.
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  4. Heat one side of your gas grill. Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temperature.

  5. Wrap the ears of corn in tin foil and place on the hotter side of the grill. Grill covered for 15 minutes, turning four times during cooking. Remove the foil from the corn and continue to cook until lightly browned all over, about another five minutes. Remove the corn from the grill and set aside to cool.
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  6. Remove the pork chops from the foil and place them on the hotter side of the grill. Grill until each side is nicely browned, about 3 minutes per side. Move the chops to the cooler side of the grill, cover, and continue to cook until an instant read thermometer registers 135 degrees in the thickest part of the chop. Remove from the grill and tent with foil.
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  7. Cut off the corn kernels into a medium bowl and discard the cobs. Add the rest of the salsa ingredients and gently toss until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove the pork chops from the foil, top with the corn salsa, and serve.

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Recipe adapted from Joshua Bousel of Serious Eats

Cube Steak Redux

Initially, I was not overwhelmed with the idea of this Parmesan-Panko Steaks with Fresh Tomato Salsa recipe because it reminded me of the Swiss Steak dinners served when I was a kid. And if you all remember, I was one picky eater back then! But my palette—maybe not me so much 😉 —has matured since then so I thought giving cubed steak another chance was only fair, plus Russ really wanted to try it.

Cube steak is a cut of beef, usually top round or top sirloin, tenderized and flattened by pounding with a meat tenderizer. The name refers to the shape of the indentations left by that process, called “cubing.” They cook up quick and are a great way to get all the benefits of grass fed beef without breaking the bank.

Here, a crisp panko crust and an Italian-style fresh tomato salsa transform the humble cube steaks into something unique. They’re quite easy to make and don’t take the skill of a master chef to achieve.

Maybe because it is the cut of meat used for Chicken Fried Steak, that it became somewhat of a turn-off for me. And frankly, even though I loved the tomato salsa, the meat itself was just a “meh” for me—but my man Russ thought much more highly of those steaks. Hey, we’re not consistently on the same page with everything.

To address Russ’s wheat intolerance, we used gluten-free panko and flour. Pairing the meat with sautéed baby spinach upped the health value of the dinner and added another pop of color, always a plus in my book…

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ripe tomatoes, cut into medium dice (about 3 cups)
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 beef cube steaks (1 to 1-1/4 lb. total)
  • 1-1/2 oz. (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups plain panko
  • 3/4 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3/4 cup using a rasp grater)

Directions

  1. Combine the tomatoes, 1 Tbs. of the oil, the onion, vinegar, oregano, garlic, 1 tsp. salt, and 3/4 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl.
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  2. Season the steaks with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Put the flour in a shallow dish, beat the eggs in a second shallow dish, and combine the panko and Parmigiano in a third shallow dish.IMG_2725IMG_2728
  3. Dredge the steaks in the flour, then in the egg, letting any excess drip back into the dish, and then in the breadcrumb mixture.
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  4. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook 2 of the steaks, flipping once, until nicely browned and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes total.
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  5. Transfer to a platter, cover, and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining steaks and 2 Tbs. oil. Serve the steaks topped with the salsa.

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By Carolyn Malcoun

An Historic Tavern

Nestled along the Delaware River in bucolic Bucks County, the Zagat-rated Yardley Inn is a great place to enjoy waterside dining near Philadelphia. The historic tavern boasts an elegant and refined atmosphere that fills the bill for a city dining experience without the city. It is located just down the street from my previous home in Yardley, and is less than 10 miles from our current Langhorne residence.

Functioning as a restaurant and inn since 1832, this Bucks County mainstay keeps things up-to-date with a kitchen that’s not afraid to think outside the hotel dining box. Meals here kick off with lighthearted bites such as Korean Wings and chorizo stuffed Devils on Horseback, then move onto mains like swordfish over caponata and miso-marinated local chicken.

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The modern welcoming foyer.

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One of several spacious dining rooms overlooking the Delaware river.

The neighborhood gem, named “Best Restaurant in Bucks” on numerous occasions, is known for its contemporary American cuisine prepared and served by a staff with a passion for superior service. The diverse menu is sure to satisfy any appetite, mood, or craving. The dining room offers a warm ambiance and picturesque waterfront views while the patio provides comfortable outdoor seating surrounded by nature (and some local traffic.)

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The view from our interior window seats overlooked the charming outdoor patio and Delaware River beyond. Shortly after we were seated and the outdoor tables filled, an unexpected torrential downpour occurred and the patrons had to scuttle inside while the waitstaff collected their meals. While the weather intrusion lasted only about 20 minutes, it was just another example of the continuation of our endless rainy summer season.

We were anxious to try the featured wine of the week, a Purato Nero D’Avola. Sicily’s number one red grape variety, Nero d’Avola, is indigenous to the island and is known to have a wonderful structure, soft tannins and is touted to be very approachable. Packed with red berry fruit flavors, it is supposedly ideal with red meat and tomato based pasta sauces—so would have been a perfect accompaniment to my entrée. Unfortunately, our waitress Jenna had to inform us that they had run out of the vintage the night before. Plan B…

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Fresh, hot crusty breads arrived while our wine was being uncorked.

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For starters Russ wisely opted for the velvety Crab Bisque that provided a subtle kick from red pepper. It was creamy, smooth and very flavorful—I know because he let me taste it. Knowing that I wouldn’t be getting any veggies with my entrée, I honed in on the Garden Greens Salad with a light miso vinaigrette that made for an ideal first course.

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Chorizo is one of Russ’s all time faves, so when the menu listed Chorizo Meatloaf as a main dish, he pretty much decided on the spot. It arrived topped by salsa verde and créma all surrounded by a large medley of roasted fresh corn and black beans. The portion was more than ample, so he doggie-bagged half of his meal for a work-week lunch.

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Lynn’s entrée was an unusual pick for her, the Handmade Ricotta Cavatelli with a beef and pork bolognese. The pasta was soft and pillowy, almost gnocchi-like and the flavorful meat sauce included a generous amount of fresh tomatoes. However, it was very filling and I transported more than half of it home—which Russ and I both enjoyed the next day.

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Too full to even consider dessert, and with the storm abated, we gathered our leftovers and made the short trip back home. To really make a night of it, consider making dinner reservations for a Saturday and stay to watch their live entertainment that begins at 8:00.

Fast & Fresh

If you’re into chicken and you want it fast, this Chicken Cutlets with Tomatoes and Basil recipe is for you. Boneless chicken breasts cook very quickly when butterflied and pounded thin. Topped with tomatoes, garlic, and basil and served on a bed of arugula, they make a colorful and tasty weeknight supper.

August is prime time for ripe tomatoes and lots of fresh basil picked from your garden or purchased at the local farm stand. With just seven simple ingredients (and salt and pepper) the beauty of this meal is how quickly it all comes together. Served over a bed of subtly spicy baby arugula, you can’t go wrong.

Directions indicate to cook two breasts at once, but once pounded thin, we could only accommodate one at a time in the skillet. No problem, they literally only took two minutes per side. And at first glance, the tomato mixture seemed like overkill, but it was actually just enough for four servings. With a side of fresh corn on the cob, also an August staple, it was the perfect summer meal!

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Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ripe plum tomatoes (5 medium), seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-1/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped (we used 2 cloves)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 lb.)
  • 4 oz. (4 loosely packed cups) baby arugula
Directions
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 200°F.
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  • In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, 3 Tbs. of the oil, the vinegar, garlic, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper.
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  • Butterfly each chicken breast by slicing it horizontally almost but not entirely in half so you can open it like a book. Open and pound each breast between two pieces of plastic wrap with a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy pan until 1/4 inch thick.
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  • Pat the chicken dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. of the remaining oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Cook two of the breasts until golden-brown on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until just cooked through, about 30 seconds more. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and chicken.
  • Divide the arugula among 4 dinner plates. Set the chicken on top, and spoon a generous amount of the tomato mixture and its juice over all.

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By Arlene Jacobs

Where the Bold Dare Tread

Kebabs sometimes get a bad rap. Let’s face it, decades of alternating zucchini coins, onion wedges and cherry tomatoes can do that. But this Asian take, with a spicy, sticky glaze, makes for a very convincing comeback, albeit without vegetables.

We were tasked with bringing an appetizer to a small holiday weekend dinner party at our friends Barb and Brad’s house. A few days prior I came across this Sambal Chicken Skewers recipe online at Bon Appétit and thought it would make the perfect dish for the get together. Of course, one has to like strong bold flavors because one taste of these babies and they let you know who’s boss. Only one of the group couldn’t take the heat, and you know it wasn’t me…

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Once again Mother Nature was handing us a cool rainy day and I toyed with broiling the skewers instead of grilling them, but decided to brave the elements and throw them on the barby despite the weather. Thanks to hubby for stepping in and manning the grill whilst I prepared our departure.

Once at B&B’s house, the climate only worsened so in the house we stayed, except for Brad who had to finish grilling the pork tenderloin out on the deck. But first, neighbors Mimi and Jack (who we hadn’t seen in a few years) also joined the party with a homemade bruschetta. While our kebabs were still warm, we enjoyed cocktail hour with the appetizers and discussed not only the outdoor climate, but the political one as well, which we all know can be a rather touchy subject…

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Brad, Barb and Russ pose for an after dinner photo op. Mimi and Jack are seated in the (poorly taken, mea culpa) photo below.
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Thanks B&B for the lovely dinner. Your grilled pork tenderloin, corn salad, and roasted vegetable medley were all a hit! And the chocolate mousse cake for dessert ended the meal on a very sweet note!

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Sambal Chicken Skewers

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch–2-inch pieces

Directions

  1. Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat.
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  2. Remove chicken and thread 4 or 5 pieces onto each skewer.
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  3. Transfer leftover marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half (about 1 cup), 7–10 minutes.
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  4. Grill chicken, turning and basting often with reduced marinade, until cooked through, 8–10 minutes.
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Recipe by Alison Roman from Bon Appétit

Banana Pepper Bounty

In a moment of weakness, with their bright colored seduction, we purchased an abundance of banana peppers after stopping at a farm stand while out of town one weekend in late August. They were too gorgeous to pass up so we made an impromptu decision to buy a bunch (you couldn’t buy them singly), but once we got home I wondered what the heck I was going to do with all of them. Hmmmm, time to don my culinary thinking cap….

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A couple of ideas formulated in my mind, one an Asian stir-fry; the other an Italian pasta dish. For the first, tender shrimp and crisp vegetables are stir-fried with a garlic and ginger flavored sauce made from homemade stock (we were out of seafood so I used chicken), soy sauce and sesame oil, for a savory seafood and vegetable stir-fry. The aromatics included the “Chinese Trinity” of garlic, onion and ginger.

Be aware, there are sweet versus hot varieties. Hot banana peppers are known for producing 6-inch-long, medium hot peppers, whereas the sweet variety are just that—sweet and mild. Both types mature in color from light yellow to orange to red. Depending on your preference, choose the brand that suits your family best, or combine both.

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The second dish, a fettucine pasta, not only included those banana peppers, but some roasted plum tomatoes, which we also bought fresh from that farm stand. And to counterbalance the spiciness of the peppers, I included sweet Italian sausage and fresh sweet basil.

As far as roasting those tomatoes**, I’ve read and tried numerous methods, from roasting at a low 225-degree oven for many hours, to doing so in a hot 450-degree oven for as little as 30 minutes. Whichever you prefer, make sure to core them, slice in half lengthwise, brush with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. This time I also added some fresh thyme leaves.

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Plum tomatoes are cut in half, brushed with oil, salt, pepper and thyme leaves and roasted.

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Depending on which method you use, the tomatoes roast for anywhere from 30 minutes on high heat, to several hours on low heat.

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Once cooled, package the roasted tomatoes in an air tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Shrimp and Banana Pepper Stir-Fry

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup seafood or chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined*
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 4-6 banana peppers (sweet and/or hot), halved, seeded, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thinly on the diagonal

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 small grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cups hot cooked regular long-grain white rice
  • Sliced scallion greens for topping (optional)

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Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the stock, soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch until smooth, set aside.

  2. Pat the shrimp very dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, add shrimp and the remaining 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch and toss to coat.

  3. In a wok or large sauté pan over high heat, add half the cooking oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. When the wok is very hot, add the shrimp in a single layer and cook partially until one side is seared brown, about 1 minute.
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  4. Flip and sear the other side of each shrimp, about one more minute. They don’t need to be cooked all the way through yet. Remove them to a plate or bowl and set aside.
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  5. Turn the heat down to medium and let wok cool off a bit to prevent the aromatics from burning. Add the remaining cooking oil and add onion, garlic and ginger and stir fry for a minute until fragrant. Remove and add to shrimp bowl.
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  6. Toss in carrot slices, cook for two minutes, then add onion and pepper slices and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more.
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  7. Pour in the sauce mixture and add the shrimp/garlic/ginger back into the pan. Stir fry for another minute until shrimp is cooked through. Add the tomato halves and serve immediately over hot rice.
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*If like us, you buy the shrimp with their heads on to use for making seafood stock, purchase 1 1/2 pounds total.

Fettucine with Banana Peppers and Roasted Plum Tomatoes

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Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fettucinne pasta
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, remove from casings
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 banana peppers (hot, sweet, mild or a mix), halved, seeds removed and cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 8 roasted plum tomato halves (see above**), each half quartered
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, more for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Before draining, set aside a 1/2 cup.
  2. While pasta is cooking, break apart Italian sausage in large skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add in onion and garlic. Cook until sausage is completely browned, stirring occasionally.
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  3. Once sausage is completely browned, add in banana pepper slices peppers. Cook another 5-7 minutes to soften.
  4. Add in roasted tomatoes. Stir for about 2 minutes, until all flavors meld.
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  5. Toss with cooked pasta and drizzle with 1 tablespoon EVOO. (Add some of reserved pasta water to loosen if needed.)
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  6. Mix in parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately and garnish with more basil and cheese.

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Both recipes courtesy of Lynn Holl